And It Was ADVANCED!: Things The D&D Episode Of Community Totally Got Right

A few weeks ago, buzz about the D&D episode of the sitcom Community spread like wildfire through the world of geekdom. And the buzz was good! Everyone raved about it, and when even Monte Cook chimed in that it was awesome, I knew I had to see it, even though I’d never seen a single episode of the show before.

Now, my husband and I recently followed J’s lead and turned off our cable TV. So far, thanks to Netflix and Hulu, we’re doing just fine (though we do miss some shows that don’t stream online anywhere). So while we didn’t see the episode when it aired, and weren’t able to record it, it was beyond easy to find it on Hulu. We sat down to watch with bated breath, eager to see if it lived up to the hype.

It does, kids. It does in spades. With just one viewing I could see why the gaming world was rejoicing, and I also couldn’t help but hope that it would teach the non-gaming world a thing or two about this wonderful RPG-thing we all love so much.

The Premise

Without giving too much away, here’s the main plot of the episode. Jeff (Joel McHale) and the others become concerned about their classmate, who is known by all as “Fat Neil”, when it becomes obvious that he is depressed. Jeff feigns an interest in Neil’s favorite hobby – AD&D – to try to make him feel better, but is then shaken when Neil gives him all his D&D books, saying that he won’t need them anymore. In a quest to save Neil, Jeff gathers the others to play a game of D&D, to show Neil he’s valued and has friends and that life is worth living. No one else has ever played the game before, and all tend to think it’s more than a bit silly, but they are all willing to play if it will help Neil. They purposefully exclude Pierce (aka Pierce the Insensitive, Pierce the Dickish, and Grandpa the Flatulent, brilliantly played by Chevy Chase), but that decision comes back to haunt them…

Things They Hit Right Outta The Park

Don’t let a dick ruin the game. When Pierce discovers he’s been excluded from the game, he’s pissed, and forces his way in, doing his best to make everyone miserable. Britta yells at him, “You’re playing the game wrong!” and that’s the truth, because he’s focused on “winning” the game himself. We all know that’s not how D&D works. Instead of everyone else packing up their dice and going home, they stick it out, determined that Pierce will not spoil their game.

The DM has to be impartial, or the game has no meaning. As much as Abed hates what Pierce is pulling, and as much as he would like to just overrule him, he can’t do that anymore than he could overrule the others and favor Pierce’s actions. As DM, he can’t pick favorites. He also has to have faith that the players can resolve things themselves, which they ultimately do.

Romance has a place at the table. The party needs a flock of pegasi to try to catch up with Pierce, but the stable maiden isn’t as interested in coin or trade as she is a little roll in the hay. Jeff can’t get into role-playing his male character with Abed’s female NPC, and offends her in the process. Luckily Annie, playing Hector the Well-Endowed, is able to save the day with some sweet words and an apparently very sexy encounter. Just like that, the group has the pegasi they need.

Time stop sucks. Dear gods, I hate that spell. At least when it’s used against me.

Try it – you just might like it. Everyone at the table went into the game not knowing much about it, and without very high expectations. In the end, they all cheered and had a great time! How many people who watched the show might now be thinking, “Huh…maybe this D&D thing is worth a try?” I don’t know about you, but I’m all for bringing more people into the hobby.

Community Couldn’t Be A Better Name

Gamers are a community unto themselves. The way this group of college friends banded together to help Neil is something I see at game tables week in and week out. There is a connection among gamers that goes beyond acquaintance or even friendship, and ultimately, I hope that’s the message that non-gamers watching the show got out of it. I have no idea if that’s the message the folks behind Community intended to send, but they did it, and they’ve picked up a new fan in this gamer-girl.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it! You can watch the full episode right here.

Did you see the D&D episode of Community? What did you think about it?

About c

By day, Connie Thomson (aka Ariel Manx) is a mild-mannered shoe salesgirl, geeking out about insoles, outsoles, and shanks. But when night falls, she takes her turn at the helm of 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming, where she writes, edits, and does layout for table-top RPG products. Regardless of her persona, C is always a fangirl, bookworm, and craft diva. (Email C or follow @arielmanx on Twitter.)

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